The Rochester School Committee met at the Town Hall on Thursday night for their monthly meeting. Superintendent Doug White began the meeting with his report. He highlighted newly released information from the state regarding MCAS. According to the new numbers, the entire Old Rochester district has consistently scored above the state averages in reading, math, and science. A special presentation detailing the MCAS was scheduled but due to the lack of a digital projector, was postponed until November’s meeting.
Then Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Elise Frangos, briefed the committee on her report, which focused on the success of the September 26 professional development afternoon. Each school in the district hosted a different workshop to improve the performance and abilities of teachers.
Frangos also said that over 800 fourth through eighth grade students from the Tri-Town will be participating in a bread-baking outreach program as part of the King Arthur Flour Grand Project.
“As part of the program, children will be learning about the history of bread and how to bake their own bread,” Frangos said. King Arthur Flour would donate the materials to the students and they would bake bread at home as part of the program.
The Committee voted in favor of proceeding with the King Arthur Flour project.
Frangos also mentioned the up-coming parent-teacher education forum, to be held on Wednesday, October 24 at Old Rochester Junior High Library. It will be led by Katie Collins, RN, and will include topics like eating disorders, self-injury, social and physical impacts of puberty and how to support children with difficult peer relationships.
“It’s a great way to understand adolescents and how they’re growing up, as well as how to deal with the concerns they have or their friends have,” she said.
Then, Dr. Moira Rodgers, RMS principal, gave her report.
“One of the most dramatic things that happened in the past month was the lock-down the building had on September 11. It just reinforced for me the virtues of being prepared,” Rodgers said.
She spoke with Police Chief Magee about the procedures for safely responding to dangerous situations. They had discussed holding a lock-down drill in October.
“There were no safety threats to the children or the community, but I have to say I was very impressed with the staff and student response. It was truly impressive that the people followed the protocol and managed the situation perfectly.”
She added that better walkie-talkies would help the staff stay in better contact with one another during emergency situations.
“As principal, it was apparent to me that that’s a real need, as well as contact out on the recess field,” Rodgers said.
The larger school building makes for some challenges with the present radio system and Rodgers is looking to purchase new walkie-talkies in the near future.
In addition, Rodgers said that her “Coffee with the Principal” program has been successful so far and will be holding two more dates, on Tuesday, October 9 from 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm and Friday, October 19, from 9:00 am to 10:00 am.
“I look forward to meeting with more parents,” she said.
Ryan McGee, the Rochester technology director, then offered his quarterly report which highlighted the diverse use of technology in RMS classrooms, such as using iPod audio books to help reading fluency and posting video math tutorials to classroom websites. Creating new ways to use technology to educate is something that the staff has largely supported and embraced.
“We’re definitely looking to share all of our resources, talents and skills,” he said. “We’re having a parent night in November, but we’re working on dates. We’re trying to get the community involved, get the schools involved.”
After the Committee approved the minutes from past meetings, White offered his financial update.
“As of the end of the month, we have $477,626 remaining, which is 8.57% of the budget remaining,” he said.
White bullet-pointed a few line items on the budget report.
“As you know one of the areas that jumps out is the principal’s line. That is actually a result of us having an out-going principal an in-coming principal,” he said, which required RMS to pay out a larger amount of salary due to the overlap.
He noted savings resulting from the shuffling of personnel around the district and from a new transportation contract for students who attend Bristol Agricultural High School.
“We have also have some students who may have some needs that aren’t being met by this budget,” he said. “Building the budget on what you know compared to what you have, there may be the need for some transfers from other places.”
Committee vice chair Sharon Hartley was concerned about the costs of school utilities versus what is reflected in the budget, citing a potential shortfall of funds later in time.
“If that continues, that would leave us in a difficult position,” she said.
White continued the meeting with a discussion regarding the creation of a new superintendent evaluation tool that would allow fair judgment of the position across the different district school committees.
“I’m looking for some guidance from each of the committees and what your thought process is and how we can guide this,” he said, noting that different schools may prioritize performance standards differently.
White is responsible for creating an annual self-assessment in addition to being subject to the evaluation of his performance by district teachers and administrators.
“If I came in and I said I wanted to focus in on family and community, and the committee wanted me to focus on curriculum and instruction, where are we on that? What’s the work that needs to be done to address that?” White said. “My suggestion would be the committee give their information to the chairs, and I meet regularly with them, then they can guide me.”
In other business:
•The Committee voted to accept a donation of $2,691.25 from Target, via the retailer’s Take Charge of Education initiative.
•Mark Ponte was hired to replace Teah Mazzoni as third grade teacher. Mazzoni was recently appointed the ORR district ELL Specialist.
•The School Committee voted to adopt the new emergency response plan for RMS. The complete plan is available in the school’s main office.
•Terri Hamm spoke to the Committee about the need for the addition of a new paraprofessional position to reinforce the special education needs of RMS students. The school has hired a temporary sub to assist special needs students in transition, but she said there may be a need to create a permanent position this year. The matter will be discussed further at the Committee’s November meeting.
The next meeting of the Rochester School Committee will be held on Thursday, November 1, 2012, at 6:30 pm at the Town Hall.
By Eric Tripoli